This post will review some of my findings and thoughts about using a Chromebook.
you may ask what this post is doing on a blog about Linux, simple answer, Chrome OS as used on the Chromebook is a Linux based OS!
So why did I choose a Chromebook? I was in need of a new laptop, my old laptop from 2005 running PCLinuxOS was giving problems (hardware related, not associated with the OS), because I normally use the laptop for Internet related work it struck me that a Chromebook would be suitable, after doing a little research I decided upon the Samsung model.
I have now used the Chromebook for 4 months and in general I am pleased with my decision.
It is important to understand what a Chromebook can and cannot do, I have listed these below as pro’s and con’s.
No fan (quiet).
Quick boot (less than 10 seconds).
Excellent battery life.
Good quality keyboard.
OS updated automatically.
No need for antivirus or antimalware software.
Easy to factory reset if you do get in a mess.
Very easy to use (everything done in a browser window).
Lots of free apps to make the vanilla flavour Chromebook more useful.
Free 100GB of Google Drive storage for the next two years.
You cannot install Windows programs.
Limited possibilities to use external hardware, because you cannot install drivers.
Printer cannot be connected directly to USB port.
Although files can be saved to the internal SSD the preferred method is to save files to your Google drive space (some people have qualms about this) personally I do not have a problem with this .
As you can see I have more Pro’s than Con’s others may think otherwise, but it all depends what you use the device for, for my part this is surfing the Internet, writing emails and other documents (this post was written on the Chromebook) and that is about it, I almost forgot, I listen to music using Spotify (there is a beta browser based version that works fine on the Chromebook).
I leave things like photo editing to my stationary PC running Ubuntu, not that this cannot be done on the Chromebook, there are several apps that will allow you to do this (online) but with the small screen I do not think this is suitable (you can connect a larger screen to the Chromebook via the HDMI port), but the built in SD card reader and the portability of the unit makes it very suitable for viewing, and uploading images, so I normally take it on my travels.
You will find that there are (online) apps for doing most of the things you do with your PC , the most important things (writing a document/email) can be done offline if necessary, the Chrome Web Store has a special section for offline apps, but don’t forget you have only a 16GB SSD to save things on if offline on the Samsung (more storage available on the the Acer that has a conventional hard disk).
I have found that with a bit of lateral thinking I can do almost all that I did on the old laptop so really there is no turning back now.
One word of warning though, this concerns printing, as stated previously you cannot connect a printer directly to the Chromebook, yes it has a USB port (two actually, 1 USB 2.0 and 1 USB 3.0) but nothing will happen if you connect in this way because you cannot install any drivers, so how do you print? well it is actually quite simple, the answer, Cloud printing, if you have a printer that supports cloud printing you register the printer and then print via the internet, if you have a classic printer you will have to use another PC on your home network as a go-between, this works but personally I wanted to be able to print from anywhere without having another PC at home running, because both my old HP laser and my HP inkjet were also on their last legs I decided to replace them with Google Cloud print enabled printers, this was where I ran into problems, I decided to buy a Samsung ML 3310ND as a replacement for the old HP laser, I had found a document on one of the Samsung sites that stated that this printer supports Google Cloud print if the firmware was up to date, but this turned out to be incorrect, I contacted Samsung and they also said it should support Cloud print, but even after a second firmware upgrade it still has no support for Cloud printing!
A similar problem occurred when it was time to replace the inkjet, decided upon a Canon Pixma, again I had checked on a local (Swedish) Canon site that the printer had Cloud print support and found that the model in question had this, but after connecting the printer and checking the menu system I saw that this choice was missing, I contacted Canon and they stated that the printer did have Cloud print support, they even sent me a link about configuration! I finally had to take some pictures of the printers built in display to prove that the menu item in question did not exist! after sending these to Canon I received an apologetic email stating that they were wrong, that this model did not have support!, fortunately I was able to return the Pixma and finally bought an Epson XP800, I had thoroughly checked up on Cloud print support for this model and it worked perfectly! very easy to configure, and this is also where Linux comes into the picture again, why? well if you have a Linux PC running the Chrome web browser you are able to access the Cloud print enabled printer you have registered, no (local) drivers needed! yes Epson do have Linux drivers available for this printer, but to be honest I have not installed them, you can open most files from your browser either directly or by importing them into your Google Drive space and print them from there, so now as long as a printer has true Google cloud print support and you print via the Chrome web browser you can print from almost any Linux PC without installing drivers!
So the final word on this is be very careful when choosing a printer if you buy a Chromebook and want to use Cloud printing, make sure it truly does support Google Cloud print before buying, I think this situation will improve with time, at the moment this is so new that not even the manufacturers technical support are always aware of what does and does not support Cloud printing, and their websites can be very misleading.